Summary: Online quizzes can be great tools in helping students learn and check their comprehension of the information they have been taught. However, a quiz must be worded, ordered, and structured properly to ensure that students understand the appropriate material. Like written quizzes, online quizzes are usually short in length and specifically test a student's ability to comprehend information previously presented to him. For example, a student may read a lesson about the histor...
Online quizzes can be great tools in helping students learn and check their comprehension of the information they have been taught. However, a quiz must be worded, ordered, and structured properly to ensure that students understand the appropriate material.
Like written quizzes, online quizzes are usually short in length and specifically test a student's ability to comprehend information previously presented to him. For example, a student may read a lesson about the history of the automobile and then answer questions about who created the internal combustion engine, who created the Model T, and so forth.
One thing to keep into consideration, however, is that a quiz should test a student's ability to recall pertinent details and make generalizations about the entire subject on which he is tested. Instructors commonly create questions that test irrelevant details or are too directly related to the material to be of value to the student. One instructor may ask for dates and names of famous battles in English history, and a particular student may do very well on this quiz. However, when he is assessed on his knowledge of English history and asked to write an assessment on the War of the Roses, he could very well come up short. The disparity stems from the low-level, pure comprehension nature of the questions in the quiz as compared to the higher-level thought process required to write an analysis of history.
Teachers also can make the mistake of creating questions that are overly general. One of the common complaints of students is that questions appear too abstract or ambiguous, and this is often true. An instructor may ask a question like: "What was the nature of early English-Native American interaction?" Such a question is perfectly innocuous, but when the answer choices are given as one-word characterizations like "timid," "overbearing," and "indifferent," students are left to guess what a teacher "meant to ask" rather than ponder the material covered in the quiz.
A teacher must strike a balance between questions that are overly specific or overly general. While it is not always easy to tell what a "good" question entails, here are a few guidelines:
* The question should reflect the student's ability to comprehend and not simply recall information
* The question should aid in a student's analysis of the information presented
* The question should be worded such that the student cannot determine the answer easily by process of elimination from the answer choices
* Good questions require the judgment of the student so that the student does not just choose the "correct" answer, but the "best" answer
Consider the following two questions as illustrations of the points above. Both questions ask essentially the same thing, but one is a good question while the other is decidedly ineffective as a learning tool.
Is the NFL-AFL merger considered an example of monopoly? Why or why not?
Which features of a monopoly did the NFL-AFL merger exhibit? Which features allowed for an exemption from antitrust law?
While both of the above questions test a on a student's knowledge of antitrust legislation and the NFL-AFL merger, the above question is ambiguous as to what the question really wants the student to respond with. The question below, while asking basically the same information, requires the student to cite specific examples of features of monopolies and antitrust while guiding the student in an effective analytical response. Clearly, the bottom question is superior.
Of course, it is difficult to judge every question as a "good" or "bad" question, but over time, educators can get a feel for the effectiveness of the quizzes by the responses they receive from their respective students. Effective quizzes will help students use knowledge in analytic responses and on lengthy assessments. Ineffective quizzes will encourage students to "brain dump," or cram. If used correctly, quizzes are an indispensable tool to the educator and a great learning tool for the student.